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So long, Crystal Springs Dam bridge

Did you enjoy your ride over the Crystal Springs Dam bridge on Saturday's ride? I hope so, because that might be your last one for quite a long time. The existing bridge is about to be removed and, ultimately, replaced with a new structure that contains bicycle lanes. Until then, however, riders headed up and down the Peninsula via the foothills are, as they say, screwed.

Detours are available, and they're not impossible, but they're mighty inconvenient. From the project description (2MB .pdf):
Detour for bicycle traffic coming from north of the Crystal Springs Dam Bridge either via the terminus of the Sawyer Camp Trail or Skyline Boulevard. Southbound bicycle traffic on Skyline Boulevard or Sawyer Camp Trail will be directed east (left turn or straight respectively) onto Crystal Springs Road. From there, bicycle traffic will be directed southbound (right turn) onto Polhemus Road which then becomes Ralston Avenue near the Highway 92 interchange. Immediately south of the Ralston Avenue/Highway 92 interchange, bicycle traffic will be directed west (right turn) onto the Ralston Recreational Trail (a 1-mile long paved recreational trail) which runs parallel to Highway 92 and connects to Cañada Road via a bicycle/pedestrian bridge that crosses over I-280 south of the construction site. The total bicycle traffic detour length is 4 miles. If crossing over the Crystal Springs Dam Bridge from the Sawyer Camp Trail terminus (at intersection of Crystal Springs Road and Skyline Boulevard immediately north of the bridge) to Cañada Road, the distance is 2.5 miles.

Detour for bicycle traffic coming from south of the bridge from Highway 92. Bicycle traffic traveling in an easterly direction on Highway 92, (coming down from the top of the Highway 92/Skyline Boulevard intersection) will have the option to either make a left turn (northbound) onto Skyline Boulevard at the lighted signal intersection on Highway 92 and Skyline Boulevard (located immediately east of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's [SFPUC] Crystal Springs Reservoir and west of I-280) and continue northbound towards the Bunker Hill Drive detour (right tum) which connects to Polhemus Road or have the option to continue easterly on Highway 92 and make a right turn (southbound) onto Cañada Road and connect to the Ralston Recreational Trail detour described above.

That's a mouthful. The detour in the opposite direction is essentially the same, as shown in the big photo.

The difficulty is that, no matter how you slice it, the detour means at least one extra climb that's somewhat significant. Southbound, you're stuck climbing the Polhemus hill (which we did Saturday). Northbound, you have to climb the Ralston bike path plus Crystal Springs Road. And as for Bunker Hill Drive ... yikes. It's got a grade of between 12% and 20%; uphill is westbound. And downhill, it's got stop signs literally at every intersection.

For me, the ride up and down the Peninsula is plenty difficult as it is; this just makes it more challenging in an I-don't-like-hills sort of way. Those of you who love to climb might actually welcome this detour.

San Mateo County supervisors recently approved the Environmental Impact Report for this project, so construction is set to begin soon. And although I'm not an official ALC anything, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this will affect the Day 1 route of the ride.

As soon as I get a specific date, I'll let you know. In the meantime, if you want to see this scenic spot one last time before the construction gear moves in, I'd head up there during one of the few upcoming clear days.


Unknown said...

To get to the Ralston bike trail via Polhemus, it looks like you have to cross an overpass over 92. Google earth shows this overpass to have no shoulders, and a semi truck zooming over it. Is this the safest way to get to the Ralston bike trail?

Chris Thomas said...

Indeed, that's the only way over Highway 92. It's not that bad -- although there's no marked bike lane, the shoulder over the bridge isn't all that narrow. On weekends, traffic usually isn't bad, and cars (and trucks) are smart enough to get over into the left lane.

The only other option is to climb Bunker Hill and cross 280 there, but that's a nasty, nasty, very steep climb.

That's why this long-term closure on Skyline is such a big issue ... there just aren't that many through-traffic streets around there, thanks to the terrain.